Travis Hair talks about the Coyotes, the fans, and snakes

YotesFans.jpgTravis Hair, the managing editor of Five For Howling, has lived
through the frustration of being a Phoenix Coyotes fan. He’s been a
devout fan through it all, and I know just how much he suffered through
all the troubles last summer. He seemingly took it personally, as his
team was fought over in court and nearly every pundit wrote how the team
should ultimately be moved.

Amid all this uncertainty was a
team that was in desperate need of
guidance, and a fan base that felt abandoned. The team had been mediocre
for too long in an environment where hockey can certainly struggle, and
when the issues surrounding the ownership of the franchise erupted the
fans were left out in the cold.

Now, after the first playoff
hockey game in Arizona since 2002, everything has turned completely
around. The Coyotes are the feel good story of the season, the fans are
back in rabid fashion and the Throw The Snake campaign has put Travis
and Five For Howling on the map. As the Coyotes get more and more
attention, so has Travis and his great blog.

Pro Hockey Talk was
able to chat with Travis about this past season, the great hockey game
in Glendale last night, and his experiences since become famous in the
hockey world.

As the hockey world embraces the Coyotes, Travis
says he’s not that surprised.

“Who doesn’t root for the CInderella
or the underdog?”  Those are the best of
sports stories,” Travis tells Pro Hockey Talk. “Who doesn’t hate the
Wings that isn’t a WIngs fan?”

“The
bigger surprise is the support from teams in the playoffs. Hawks fans,
Sharks
fans, Preds too. They’re cheering for us too.”

The Coyotes won a
big game against the Red Wings last night, as raucous fans turned a
hockey arena in Arizona into one of the most electrifying atmospheres in
all of hockey. Travis says that atmosphere was building outside the
arena before the game ever started.

“There were wranglers with white
coyotes on harnesses
walking around out front. Just cool.
There were tons of painted up fans, fans wearing capes, fans cheering
outside
before they ever got in. People were mostly in their seats early because
they
didn’t want to miss a moment.”

It was certainly a bit unexpected,
even with the hype the team had started to get leading into the
playoffs. Travis, however, says that this has been building for most of
the season. As far as the team goes, he says he knew they might be onto
something special well before then.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew
it was going to be this
special,” he says. “But the first clue I had was early in the year when
we went to
Pittsburgh and shutout the Penguins. It’s just one game, but anytime you
can do
something like that to the defending champs it gives you confidence in
your
team.”

What’s been truly special to witness is how a simple joke
on Twitter turned into an all-out campaign for solidarity among Coyotes
fans. The Throw The Snake movement has been embraced all around hockey,
and has put Travis and his blog on the map.

Travis says that
while there were “10 to 12” snakes that ended up on the ice, the arena
officials didn’t seem all that concerned with stopping it.

“One of
my friends was wearing a “Throw the snake” shirt [availiable on Five
for
howling] and the security people were like ‘What’s that mean?’ He had to
explain
it.

“Heck, some people got some octopi into the arena.”

As
the Throw The Snake movement gained traction, Travis has been sought out
by the media to provide his thoughts on the Coyotes, the fans and
hockey. He’s talked to Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog, appeared on local
radio, and had his blog mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada as well as
on iDesk on the CBC.

It’s some surprising instant fame for Travis, who considers
himself just a simple blogger. It’s all been a bit unexpected.

“Though
I run a blog on one of the biggest and well run networks around, I’m
just
a blogger.”

“I don’t even know where to
go from here. I’m just a hockey fan and had this random Throw The Snake
and the
team take off. I’m excicited about where this goes and also just stunned
by the
sudden attention.”

If there’s one blogger and one website that
deserve the attention, it’s Travis and Five For Howling. He’s toiled
through some tough times and now it’s paying off as his site sky
rockets.

The team has been pushing their “Whiteout 2010” campaign,
and Five For Howling has followed suit. It’s something that has
certainly worked for this team and these fans.

“Everyone was cheering, booing, oohing, Everyone
was high-fiving everyone. It was just
amazing.”
“Talk about how we shouldn’t do the whiteout if you
want,
but it was electric.”

You can follow Travis on Twitter at twitter.com/TravisHair.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Karlsson on trade speculation; Do Blues need to make a move?

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • Up top, check out the highlights from yesterday afternoon’s game between the Flyers and Capitals.

    Erik Karlsson isn’t worried about a potential trade out of Ottawa. (Sportsnet)

    • Paul Coffey has joined the Edmonton Oilers organization as a skills coach. (Edmonton Journal)

    Aaron Dell looks like he’s ready to take on a bigger role with the San Jose Sharks. (Mercury News)

    • Should the Blues make a trade to bolster their roster or should they just stick with what they have? (St. Louis Game Time)

    • Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang still has a lot to prove if he wants to become a regular in the NHL. (Newsday)

    • Jim Benning’s contract expires after this season. If the Canucks decide not to bring him back, there are a number of quality candidates that could step in. (Daily Hive)

    • Chris Chelios discusses his favorite Olympic moments, NHLers not going to the Olympics and much more in this Q&A with The Detroit Free Press.

    • Short stints in the minors have helped young goalies stay sharp for their NHL teams this season. (NHL.com)

    • Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is still trying to move on from his team with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Chicago Tribune)

    • The Rangers need Tony DeAngelo to develop into an impact player. (Blue Seat Blogs)

    • South Koreans have no issue with North Korea being in the Olympics, but they aren’t thrilled about sharing a hockey team. (ABC News)

    • John McCarthy isn’t a household name, but the minor-leaguer is going to be representing Team USA at the Winter Olympics. (Sporting News)

    • Here’s a list of young players that could join the U.S. Women’s National Team in the near future. (The Ice Garden)

    • Team Canada GM Sean Burke went to some strange places to find the right players for his squad. (Fan Rag Sports)

    • Air Force had to postpone hockey games because of the government shutdown. (College Hockey News)

    • College hockey players are now allowed to be represented by an agent, but there are some strict conditions. (USCHO.com)

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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    Players of the Night:

    Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

    • How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

    • Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

    • Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

    • The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

    Highlights:

    Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

    That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

    Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

    Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

    Non-called Penalty of the Night:

    That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

    Factoids:

    That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

    Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

    The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

    The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

    Scores:

    Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

    Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

    Jets 1, Canucks 0

    Sharks 6, Ducks 2

    Kings 4, Rangers 2

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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    It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

    Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

    Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

    And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

    (h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

    As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

    Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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    Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

    The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

    PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

    It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

    As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

    “Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

    We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

     

    43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

    “Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

    Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.